The foundation is a charitable company (10773259) registered in 2017 by volunteers in the village of Wellingore with the objective to commemorate the life and work of the pilot and poet John Magee and all who served at Wellingore Airfield. Our initial project is the erection of a bronze sculpture of John Magee in a landscaped park in Wellingore village and a small visitor centre to host the archive of research material and display the many photographs and records of the life and work of John Magee and the operations at Wellingore airfield.

Over the years, the village has received many visitors from around the world who have traced the life of Pilot Officer John Magee to the site of his last posting and his final fatal flight on 11th December 1941 but there has been no memorial to commemorate him and the other brave souls who served from Wellingore Airfield.

The village of Wellingore in Lincolnshire is a most fitting location to commemorate the life and work of John Magee. He was stationed at Wellingore airfield and billeted in the village and his grave is at the War Graves cemetery in the village of Scopwick close to Wellingore. There is a well-travelled trail of aviation history sites within the county including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby, 12 Group Control Room at RAF Digby, the home of the Red Arrows at RAF Scampton and the new Bomber Command Memorial in Lincoln.

See the News page for updates and References for some links to the history and admiration of John Magee and his poetry.
Of the thousands of young men from many different countries who gave their lives to help to defend England in World War II, Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr. left a legacy which has been acknowledged throughout the world. John was both a Pilot and a Poet. We will never know what he might have achieved but his legacy of poetry must be acknowledged as significant.
RCAF photo of John Magee
Image: John_Gillespie_Magee,_Jr
John Gillespie Magee Jr. was born in 1922 to missionary parents in Shanghai, of an American father and English mother, and educated in England. While at Rugby School he won the coveted prize for poetry. With the outbreak of war and the invasion of China by the Japanese, the family returned to America which was a neutral country at the time. John was determined to become involved in the conflict and, giving up a place at one of the Ivy League universities, he crossed the border to Canada as an American citizen but was permitted to join a foreign air force. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, RCAF, learned to fly and was chosen to fly fighter aircraft. He was posted to England where, after additional training at Llandow in Wales, in September 1941 he joined 412 Squadron RCAF located at Royal Air Force Digby, Lincolnshire, one of the stations operating within 12 Group, Fighter Command. From October 1941 the squadron operated from Royal Air Force Wellingore which was a satellite airfield of RAF Digby and equipped with Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIa’s and, later in John’s time, Mk Vb’s. It was from Wellingore that John flew operational sorties and from there that, on 11th December 1941 at the age of nineteen, he took off from Wellingore on a routine squadron training flight and, on his return, descending through cloud, collided with a training flight piloted by LA Ernest Aubrey Griffin who had taken off from RAF Cranwell. John Magee's plane crashed in a field to the east of the village and, at about 400 feet, he was much too low when he attempted to bail out. Ernest Griffin's plane crashed a short distance away and he also died while attempting a landing of the damaged aircraft.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

His most recognised poem, 'High Flight' is called the airman’s poem and was written in the months before his death. John had flown a Spitfire for the first time at Llandow and had tested the new Mark V Spitfire capable of reaching 30,000 feet. He was perhaps inspired by those experiences and certainly by similar themes expressed in other poems. In a letter to his mother dated 3rd September 1941 he wrote the poem on the back and said ' started at 30,000 feet and was finished soon after I landed' . The poem is known and cherished by civilian and military pilots throughout the world and is frequently quoted on commemorative occasions when inspiration and reflection combine to give solace and comfort, as was the case when President Reagan quoted the poem during his eulogy for the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster in 1986. Although the poem is now famous and is inscribed in many locations around the world, there is no memorial in the form of a statue that celebrates John Magee’s artistic achievements and his personal sacrifice that was typical of so many men of his time.
John Gillespie Magee Jr. Foundation
Wellingore Hall, Hall Street
Wellingore, Lincoln LN5 0HX UK
Tele: 01522 810 988

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